I just finished my first week of performing phone consults as a member of the infectious diseases faculty. Like specialists at academic medical centers all over the country, we provide advice to other doctors at our hospital or other institutions or in the community. (For free! In this respect, medicine is very different from, say, law or business.)
I did a total of 34 consults this week, including 10 today and 11 on Tuesday. In case you're not impressed, you should know that 15 consults in a week is typical, with maybe three to four on average per day.
Doctors and other medical people are a superstitious lot. Even if you don't start out that way, a few bad nights on call or crazy ER shifts will make you so. A nearly universal belief, for example, is that if you're having an unusually mellow day, saying out loud that it's "quiet" is like placing a curse that will bring in hordes of patients. If you want a sure way to agitate a bunch of people, walk into a calm emergency department and say the Q word. You will receive glares and a chorus of "shhh's!" (I don't mean to suggest that doctors don't like caring for patients; most love to do so, just not too many all at once.)
Another common practice is to describe a person's characteristic good fortune or lack thereof in terms of weather--specifically, clouds. So the lucky individual who always seems to get eight hours of sleep on call is said to "have a white cloud." Conversely, the poor soul who always has 20 new patients to care for or the most complicated, difficult cases is said to "have a black cloud." People believe in this fervently enough that they'll actually dread sharing a shift with one of the black cloud people since, of course, the bad luck spills over to others. I imagine each doctor walking around with a sort of invisible personal weather system hovering above his or her head.
I've tended to be a gray cloud kind of person, with the occasional challenging day but not a consistent pattern of misfortune. This week, however, was definitely a black cloud sort of week.
I really hope that this is not a forecast of weather to come, but rather just a brief cloudy spell with brighter skies ahead!